Congressional redistricting case dismissed from federal court

By Kyla Asbury | Jan 31, 2013

CHARLESTON – U.S. District Court Judge Robert B. King has dismissed the remaining two counts of a 2011 lawsuit brought by the Jefferson County Commission regarding Congressional redistricting.

The Jefferson County Commission, Patricia Noland, Dale Manuel and intervening plaintiff Thornton Cooper can still pursue alleged violations of the State Constitution in state court, according to a Judgment and Order of Dismissal filed Jan. 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Charleston.

The plaintiffs claimed the West Virginia Constitution calls for compact districts, but West Virginia’s Second Congressional District stretches across the state - encompassing one-third of the state’s counties over an area approximately 300 miles long.

The dismissal follows a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 25 that rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments that the new districts violate the U.S. Constitution. The Legislature redrew three U.S. House districts after the 2010 Census — moving Mason County from the Second District to the Third District.

The Jefferson County Commission sued Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, House Speaker Richard Thompson and Senate President Jeffrey Kessler over the 2011 plan, claiming the state’s three Congressional districts violate the “One Person, One Vote” Rule, did not have numerical equality and were not compact enough because the Eastern Panhandle was split between the first and second congressional districts.

In 2012, a three-judge panel ruled that the redistricting plan was unconstitutional, but their ruling was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which then ruled that the state’s redistricting plan did not violate the “One Person, One Vote” rule and was fine.

The Supreme Court justices also remanded the two remaining claims back to the U.S. District Court, noting that the compactness and equality issues needed to be dealt with at a local level.

In the dismissal order, King said the pendent claims raised “novel and complex issues of West Virginia law that the courts of the State should be given first opportunity to resolve.”

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Charleston case number: 2:11-cv-0989

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